Hopeful signs in C.A.R.

Five of the missionaries evacuated from Central African Republic March 24 returned for a visit in early May and found hopeful news.

“The rebels have indeed wreaked havoc on many parts of CAR,” ReachGlobal’s Kim Cone writes in an email. “However, by God’s grace, thus far, Gamboula has been mostly spared.”

The town is the site of a mission-run hospital and nursing school, a Bible school, an agricultural project and an outreach ministry to the Fulani people.

Kim Cone with the Seleka commander at the Cameroon border.

Kim Cone with the Seleka commander at the Cameroon border.

Gamboula lies just three miles from the Cameroon border. Miskine rebels occupied the town on Palm Sunday, a day after the CAR capital of Bangui fell. But the Miskine were taking advantage of an opportunity to loot nearby towns – especially for vehicles, which is why the evacuating missionaries were of such high interest. The Miskine were not part of the rebel coalition, Seleka, which ousted the national government.

Seleka forces eventually arrived in Gamboula and established control. Cone attributes the relative peace to three factors:

• The Miskine were primarily seeking vehicles, not to take over the town.
• The Seleka group that came to Gamboula has strong leadership.
• The mission hospital cared for the sick and wounded from both rebel factions.

“I had the privilege of visiting with and materially assisting a Miskine fighter who had taken a round through the stomach,” Cone writes. “His life was saved due to the skill of the national surgeon, Dr. Wane.”

The group of missionaries was invited back to C.A.R. by the president of the national church in Gamboula. Hospital staff and other local leaders concurred. Rather than risk their vehicles, they took a taxi from Cameroon.

Hugs, head bumps and enthusiastic handshakes marked the missionaries’ emotional reunion in Gamboula with Central African friends.

“The looting of three missionary residences was not nearly as bad as we’d anticipated,” Cone wrote. “Much was recovered due to the diligence and commitment of our sentries and the local youth.”

Five missionaries made the visit. On the first day, only the men entered: Cone, Roy Danforth of the Covenant World Missionand Luke Turk of Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship. The women came along the second day: Luke’s wife, Leanne, and Rose-Marie Norehed of the Swedish agency InterAct.

After a couple of day visits, some of the group were permitted to sleep over. Finally, Norehed, a midwife, was given permission to stay in C.A.R. as the others returned to Cameroon.

Almost all of the government officials they knew have returned to their posts, including a group that had run past the missionary convoy and fled across the Kadei River in March.

“We received a warm and emotional welcome from them as well,” Cone wrote. “All urged us to return as soon as possible to help them rebuild the country.”

The missionaries even got to meet with the Seleka colonel and commander. Both, Cone wrote, are doing their best to re-establish security and stability.

“The youthfulness and lack of training of their troops and the number of bandits pretending to be under their umbrella makes this a challenging task. Nevertheless, we saw them taking active measures to keep their rank and file in line.”

Cone, his wife, Jan, and the other American missionaries plan to visit Gamboula again in late May. After fulfilling other commitments this summer, they hope to move back full-time in early August, rejoining Norehed, as soon as their respective mission agencies give the green light.

 

 

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